The Hobbs Building, which has housed the Somerville Theatre since its opening in 1914, was named for Joseph O. Hobbs, who built the complex. Joseph was born in Boston in 1855 to Joseph Stacey Hobbs and Mary Dearborn (Andrews) Hobbs. On his mother’s side he was related to Gen. Henry Dearborn, who served as commander during the War of 1812 and later as US Secretary of War. His father’s side can be traced back to 1637 when his ancestor Morris Hobbs immigrated from England to Hampton, NH. Joseph was married twice, first to Annie French Hobbs and later to Annie Hoyt Hobbs, and outlived both wives. He had five children, two of whom: John William French Hobbs and Leon Pickering Hobbs, managed the Hobbs’ properties in and around Davis Square.
Joseph was educated in the Boston public schools and later at the Massachusetts Agricultural College (now UMass-Amherst). He began his career working for the Boston grocers Wadley, Spurr and Company before going into the commission business with his father. In 1890, Joseph inherited farmland in North Hampton, NH from his childless great-uncle John W. F. Hobbs. The farm had been owned by the family since the 1700’s, with the farmhouse built in 1862 after John W. F. Hobbs sold his “Red Line” coaches, which ran from Dock Square to Canton Street in Boston and are unrelated to the modern-day subway, to the City of Boston in the 1850’s. The property later passed to Joseph’s son Paul and was put up for sale by one of Paul’s grandsons in 2012.
While the Hobbs name adorns one of Somerville’s most beloved buildings, Joseph O. Hobbs made his professional and civic engagements not in Somerville, but in the Seacoast Region of New Hampshire. He spent much of his career in the insurance industry and was a Vice President with the Granite State Fire Insurance Co. and the Piscataqua Fire Insurance Co., both in Portsmouth, NH. He was also a part owner of the Forest Hill Hotel, a ski lodge in Franconia, NH. Additional business appointments included Trustee of Piscatagua Savings Bank, Director of the First National Bank of Portsmouth and Director of Stovene Manufacturing Company, which made stove polish in Portsmouth. Despite attending school in Massachusetts, Joseph involved himself with the educational institutions in New Hampshire, serving as a Trustee of Dartmouth College and a Trustee of Hampton Academy and High School, a position also held by his sons John and Paul. As a man of means, Joseph belonged to several athletic and country clubs around Portsmouth. He was also a member of the Odd Fellows, a fraternal organization similar to the Freemasons, belonging to the Rockingham Lodge of Hampton Falls. His prestigious position in the community was recognized in the New Hampshire state government and he served on the Executive Council under Governor George A. Ramsdell.
Joseph is buried in the Central Cemetery of North Hampton. Buried there with him are his two wives, his son John and dozens of other relations.
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